Prepared for presentation at the Conference on "The Cardoso Administration at Midterm", Washington D.C. and New York, February 25-26, 1997,organized by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Inter-American Dialogue and the Council for Foreign Relations. The expression "social debt" is often used to describe the vast array of problems of social inequality, poverty, health, social security, education, urban violence and environment degradation that exist in Brazil today, implying that they were, with inflation and the foreign debt, unwanted consequences of a perverse model of economic development that excluded large sectors of the population from its benefits. The Cardoso Administration, beginning in practice with the Plano Real in 1994, found the country's economy in shambles, the public administration in disarray, a Constitution that tied up the government's hands and granted entitlements to everybody without caring about means, and a very complex and fragmented political system formed by dozens of political parties, 27 states and about five thousand municipalities, all entitled to significant parts of the country's tax revenues and autonomous in their actions. Since then, inflation was contained, foreign debt came under control, and the economy started to move slowly ahead. Because of the high visibility of macroeconomic issues, and, more recently, of the battle in Congress to grant the government the right to compete for reelection in 1999, the Cardoso Administration is often charged of not really caring about the "social debt," of not having a well defined and explicit policy for the social sector. In the following, I will examine the nature of this social debt in some detail, present a summary of what the government social policies have been, and what we can expect for the future.